The purpose of the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) in your vehicle is to warn you that at least one or more tires are significantly under-inflated, possibly creating unsafe driving conditions. The TPMS low tire pressure indicator is a yellow symbol that illuminates on the dashboard instrument panel in the shape of a tire cross-section (that resembles a horseshoe) with an exclamation point.
That indicator light in your vehicle has a history. It’s a history rooted in years of uncertainty about proper tire pressure and many serious car accidents that might have been avoided had drivers known their air pressure was low. Even now, it’s estimated that a substantial number of vehicles hit the road each day with underinflated tires. However, proper tire maintenance with the aid of a TPMS can and does help prevent many serious accidents.
Before this indicator light became commonplace, knowing whether your air pressure had reached unsafe levels meant getting out, crouching down, and using a tire gauge. With few exceptions, this was the only pressure-checking tool ordinary consumers had at their disposal.
Then, in response to a surge in accidents due to underinflated tires, the US government passed the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act. One of the outcomes of this legislation is that most vehicles sold in the United States since 2007 include a tire pressure monitoring system of some kind.